On Friday, a former Minneapolis police officer found guilty of kneeling on George Floyd’s back received his sentence. He will serve 3.5 years in jail.
J. Alexander Kueng pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting second-degree homicide in October. Helping kill someone was dropped in exchange. Kueng will concurrently serve the state and federal terms for violating Floyd’s civil rights.
Video from Ohio federal prison brought Kueng to the court. He declined court testimony.
Kueng will likely serve 2 1/2 years in prison due to state and federal parole procedures and credit for time served.
Floyd’s family didn’t discuss how the crime affected them. Before the hearing, family attorney Ben Crump, who has worked on some of the nation’s most high-profile police deaths of Black Americans, said Kueng’s sentence was appropriate and delivered more Floyd family justice.
Floyd died on May 25, 2020, after Police Officer Derek Chauvin kneeled on his neck for 9 1/2 minutes while Floyd kept shouting he couldn’t breathe and eventually went limp. A bystander recorded the killing, which sparked global rallies against racism.
Kueng kneeled on Floyd’s back, Lane held his legs, and Thao prevented witnesses from rescuing Floyd. All three cops were fired and charged at the state and federal levels.
As part of his guilty deal, Kueng stated that he grasped Floyd’s torso and knew from his expertise and training that keeping a handcuffed person in a prone position was dangerous and wrong.
The Minnesota attorney general’s office’s Matthew Frank repeatedly said Floyd was a victim of a crime. He said the prosecution focused on the officers who killed him. He also said that the case was not meant to be a wider look at policing, but he hopes it will show that police officer can’t treat people in crisis as if they are not people or second-class citizens.
On Friday, Kueng’s lawyer, Thomas Plunkett, said that Floyd’s death was caused by bad leadership and a lack of training in the Minneapolis Police Department. He noted that Kueng was a new officer who had only been three days on the job. The department leaders also hadn’t done enough to train officers to intervene when coworkers were misbehaving. He clarified he is not seeking justice for Mr. Kueng but wants things to improve.
The day following Floyd’s death, then-Chief Medaria Arradondo fired Kueng and three other officers. She testified at Chauvin’s trial that the cops violated their training. The previous chief of training said the police violated department policies.
Kueng’s sentencing brings the other former officers’ cases closer to completion, save for Thao, whose case is still being heard by the state.
Thao told Judge Peter Cahill that pleading guilty would be lying before agreeing to a stipulated evidence trial for manslaughter in October. His lawyers and the prosecutor agree on the evidence and write closing arguments. Cahill will decide Thao’s guilt.
If Thao is convicted, the murder count, which carries a 12-and-a-half-year sentence, will be dismissed.
The state sentenced Chauvin, a white male, to 22.5 years for murder and manslaughter last year. He will also serve 21 years in prison. That is for violating Floyd’s civil rights. He serves both sentences at the Tucson Federal Correctional Institution.
Kueng, Lane, and Thao received federal convictions in February. Thao, Kueng, and Chauvin were found guilty of refusing Floyd medical attention and not stopping Chauvin from killing Floyd.
White Lane is serving a 2-1/2-year federal term in Colorado. He also has a three-year sentence. Black Kueng received three years for federal offenses. Hmong American Thao received three-and-a-half years for federal offenses.